Rugby Union 2 years ago

Springboks played final quarter with an extra man

  • Springboks played final quarter with an extra man

Uncontested scrums cost South Africa the game against the All Blacks.

More than one pundit has been saying it, arguing that since the Springbok scrum was so dominant, the fact that the scrums became uncontested because the Boks had two loosehead props on the field is the reason they lost.

Commentator Tony Vietch and former All Black Richard Turner both agreed on this, in The Vent segment on the New Zealand Herald.

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Veitch: I can't understand why did someone from South Africa not go 'this bloke here can scrum from this side and this side as well'?
Turner: Obviously a few people are perplexed about the ruling in itself but absolutely the most perplexed I was, was by how easily they let that go.
Veitch: That cost them the match. No doubt about it. They were eight on seven and we won the game.
Turner: I jumped up and down when we scored a couple of tries but I jumped up and down more when I knew they were going to uncontested scrums because that was it. Game over.
Veitch: Now you can just feign injuries if you're against the pump at the World Cup.

Except, it's not quite true. That they couldn't field an appropriate front should have been a lot worse for the Springboks - according to the Laws, they should have been reduced to 14 players. 

Law 3.5 (k): When 23 players are nominated for a match, or if the Union having jurisdiction over a match or a match organiser decides that where uncontested scrums are ordered as a result of there being no suitably trained and experienced front row replacement for any reason the team concerned shall not be entitled to replace the player whose departure caused uncontested scrums.

So when Vincent Koch went off with blood, and South Africa didn't have a suitably trained replacement (as proven by the move to uncontested scrums), he should not have been replaced at all. So much for eight on seven.

Far from being cheated out of the game, the Boks had one more player than allowed in Law. The law is there for the exact reason Veitch came up with - so weak scrums cannot just feign injury.

Since Koch didn't come back on, the Springboks should have been a man down for the rest of the game, including when Sam Whitelock came back from the sin-bin. With how close the teams are, having one less player would have lost the match even more surely than three uncontested scrums.

It's still not quite clear why uncontested scrums were ordered, since replacement prop Trevor Nyakane can play either side of the front row. Sideline officials would have made the call, in consultation with the Springbok management. And it's definitely not clear why match officials allowed Koch to be replaced after uncontested scrums were called. 

But either way, that extra player gave the Springboks a much greater shot at victory than they should have had.

SANZAR was contacted for this article, but has yet to respond.

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